Tampa came into the game tonight needing a win to keep pace in the Wild Card race and one had to believe the Red Wings would love to lay spoiler to their playoff nemesis the previous two seasons. The Red Wings outplayed Tampa for stretches throughout the game but the Lightning were able to find just enough offense as they beat the Wings 2-1 in overtime.
Both teams came out from the opening puck drop with energy. While Detroit’s energy was good, it looked a little more chaotic than controlled and they were unable to really create anything out of a couple early forced turnovers by Tampa. Just over four minutes in the Red Wings we awarded the first power play of the game thanks to Ondrej Palat putting the puck over the glass. The Wings were unable to get anything going with the man advantage as they spent most of the time trying to gain the zone or chasing the puck back into their own zone. This period was really a good example of the Wings and Lightning seasons. Both teams could move the puck through the neutral zone but once they entered the zone they were one pass off the mark or one step behind the play to finish it. A relatively uneventful period turned interesting with two and half minutes left as Dylan Larkin jumped into a small scrum by the benches. The scrum escalated further as Justin Abdelkader came to Larkin’s aid before Adam Erne and Andreas Athanasiou dropped the gloves away from the scrum. Athanasiou showed his quick hands can do more than score goals as he landed several solid rights before both players tired out. Once the dust settled Erne and Athanasiou got five minutes for the fight while Abdelkader received two minutes for cross checking and two for roughing. Yanni Goulde (roughing) and Joel Vermin (interference) each received two minutes as well, keeping the game at even strength. In the last minute of play Tampa had three really good chances at the net but were not able to find the net. The first period ended with no score and had the look of two teams who are extremely familiar with each other trying to feel each other out.
The second period started similar to the first, both teams taking turns moving the puck up the ice only to have their rush snuffed out by solid defense or an errant pass. Two and a half minutes in, Greg McKegg put Larkin into the boards on a hit that Anthony Mantha did not like. The big winger skated right to McKegg and after a couple whacks of the stick and a few words we had the second fight of the night. Just as Athanasiou had done in the first, Mantha showed his soft hands around the net can be pretty hard as well as he landed some heavy shots on McKeeg before the refs broke up the fight. McKegg took the worst in the fight but Tampa would come out of it on the power play as Mantha received the extra two minutes for instigating as well as a ten-minute misconduct. The Lightning would put on a clinic in puck movement during their power play but could not generate any dangerous looks and what they could generate Petr Mrazek quietly stopped. Just as the penalty expired, Tampa turned the puck over at the Red Wings blue line with Tomas Nosek (who was serving the two minutes for Mantha) stepping out of the box and into a 2 on 1 rush but he was not able to get a lot on the shot and it was saved relatively easily.
Adam Erne then would take an interference penalty behind the play to put the Red Wings on the power play for the second time. This one looked slightly better but the Wings still were not able to generate much. Towards the end of the man advantage, a loose puck was picked up by J.T. Brown at the blue line and looked for a second like it would turn into a breakaway. Good hustle and positioning by Niklas Kronwall negated the chance without even a shot attempt as the power play was coming to an end. Frans Nielsen would pick the puck up and get it up ice to Gustav Nyquist, who would squirt past a stickless Victor Hedman along the boards before skating down to the right faceoff dot and dropping a pass back to Henrik Zetterberg. The captain wasted no time in one-timing a knuckle puck past Andrei Vassilevskiy for a 1-0 Red Wings lead.
The Wings almost coughed the lead up right away as Hedman collected a loose puck in his own zone and found a streaking Yanni Gourde who walked into all along from the blue line and tried unsuccessfully to beat Mrazek high to the blocker side.
The Red Wings continued to push the play in the second period as they forced two more power plays, the second one was cut short however, when Zetterberg tried to prevent another loose puck from turning into another Tampa breakaway and took a hooking penalty. That was really a shame too because while the first of the two power plays looked like burnt toast the Red Wings were generating some real chances on the second one before the turnover. The second period would end with the Red Wings still up 1-0 despite a lot of turnovers and missing one of their top forwards for almost the entire second period.
Just nine seconds into the final period and the Wings found themselves on another 2 on 1 as Tomas Nosek continued a real strong game despite not being able to get his first NHL goal. Detroit continued to right where they left off in the second, pushing the play into the Lightning zone often but just could not find that last pass to generate the chance. Mrazek has looked strong all game but a point shot from Nikita Kucherov turned into an easy goal for Ondrej Palat when Mrazek was not able to catch the initial shot cleanly and could not find the rebound. The goal seemed to energize Tampa, who frankly looked like they forgot to come out of the locker room to start the second period. With 11 minutes to go in the third, Alex Killorn got his stick up around Mike Green’s ear right off a faceoff and put the Red Wings back onto the power play for the fifth time in the game but the Red Wings were again unable to really build anything of any consequence. After some back and forth between the teams, Athanasiou put a dangerous Lightning power play when he got called for holding with just over six minutes to go. After spending a minute trying to get into the zone and set up, Tampa Bay spent the rest of the power play and almost a full minute afterwards bombing shots from the point and missing the net. Detroit weathered the storm but found themselves down a man again as Tomas Tatar was called for interference with just under three minutes left in the third. On the ensuing penalty kill Xavier Ouellet made a real solid defensive play tying up Yanni Gourde’s stick and kept him from potentially burying a rebound into an open net. The period ended tied at one and the Red Wings found themselves playing bonus hockey for the second straight game.
The Red Wings won the initial face off and maintained some possession with Zetterberg, Mantha and Green on the ice but could not find a shot. Some back and forth resulted in Jonathan Drouin putting one off the post. Tampa Bay would end it however as Brayden Point would use a moving pick from Kucherov to get away from Zetterberg before passing the puck to Kucherov who chipped the puck up and over Mrazek for the game winner.
-Despite the misplay on Palat’s goal, Petr Mrazrek was fantastic tonight. He was calm, confident and quiet in the net tonight. I know some still think the Red Wings have a decision to make with their goalies this off season but the only real decision they have is if they will look to trade Jimmy Howard or gamble that Vegas will not take him in in the expansion draft.
-The Red Wings obviously need some more talent, especially along the blue line, but if they can find some consistency they will not be in the bottom of the standings and out of the playoffs long.